What is electromagnetic radiation and how does it affect us?

Technology has come to revolutionize human life, literally. And it is not only about novel devices, but the radiation around us increases every time.

Most studies have focused on the consequences of ionizing radiation, leaving out non-ionizing radiation. An electromagnetic radiation is any process in which energy is emitted, in the form of waves and material particles in space.

To differentiate them, their frequency has to be taken into account: the larger, the greater their energy. Waves are vibrations that travel in a vacuum at the speed of light and practically out of reach of human sight.

There is radiation that is harmless to living beings. They are the so-called non-ionizing. They do not represent any danger because the atomic bonds are not broken and they hold the molecules together. They are electromagnetic waves.

We are generally exposed to AM and FM radio waves, microwaves, infrared radiation, waves, and ultraviolet radiation. At the opposite extreme we find ionizing radiation in which atoms are broken and cells ionize, causing irreversible damage to the person and even death.

These radiations arise from the decay of unstable atoms of radioactive substances (for example, uranium).  They are basically 3 types of radiation: alpha, beta and gamma.

  • Alpha (α): They are not very penetrating and can pass through a sheet of paper. This is extremely harmful because it means that once they permeate a site, they will contaminate any food or drink that is nearby. Just touching or eating any of these foods breaks the molecules.
  • Beta (β): It is much more penetrating than alpha and can pass through an aluminum layer. However, it is less dangerous.
  • Gamma (γ): They are very penetrating and of nuclear origin, so thick blocks like concrete are needed for it to pass.

Damaging effects

Electromagnetic radiation causes biological effects in humans but they are not necessarily harmful. For example, when you listen to music, dance or read a book there is a biological change that does not affect the body, as it has the ability to compensate for the effect.

However, when the body is exposed to electromagnetic waves and the biological effect is outside the normal range, it affects health. According to the scientific report on the effect of electromagnetic fields on the human endocrine system and associated pathologies, there have been cases of:

  • Breast cancer, leukemia and tumors
  • Sclerosis
  • Memory loss
  • Brain cancer
  • Cardiopulmonary disorders: tachycardia and blood pressure
  • Reduction of red blood cells

Likewise, other disorders that can be considered mild may also occur, such as:

  • Vision problems: cataracts and loss of sight
  • Developmental problems in children
  • Hypertension
  • Fatigue
  • Neurological disorders: mental confusion, irritability, headache, and insomnia
  • Joint pain
  • Reproductive problems: alteration of the menstrual cycle, abortions, infertility
  • Dermatitis and skin disorders

Effects on pregnancy

According to WHO reports, to date there is no solid evidence on the relationship between exposure to electromagnetic fields and risks of pregnancy such as spontaneous abortions, malformations, low birth weight and congenital diseases.

Despite this, there have been occasional records in which a certain relationship between health problems in pregnant women and presumed exposure to electromagnetic fields is suggested. To be more precise, there have been cases of premature birth and low birth weight in the babies of workers in these types of environments.

How to reduce electromagnetic radiation?

Although large companies do not accept that household appliances, telephones or computers affect health, studies are being analyzed in which the consequences take 10 or 20 years to appear. 

It is practically impossible to eliminate exposure to electromagnetic radiation, but it can be reduced with some indications:

  • Turn off and unplug any unused appliances.
  • It is advisable to charge the device and then disconnect. If it needs to be plugged in, keep the plug away from your body.
  • If you use a heater or fan, put it at least one meter away from the beds.
  • Avoid using electric blankets.
  • As for desk lamps, it is important that they have incandescent bulbs.
  • When you hear something in the microwave, stay away until the process is finished.
  • Stay away from the TV as it generates waves around it.
  • Turn off the Bluetooth if you don’t need it.
  • Avoid indoors with air conditioning.
  • Do not put the washer or dryer near the room, as the radiation passes the wall.
  • The people most prone to the effects of radiation are children, pregnant women and the elderly.
  • Reduce the use of cell phones especially in children under 14 years.

In short, human beings are exposed to millions of good and bad radiations. However, the only thing we can do is try to reduce them by following the recommendations set out in the article.

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